“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
— Little Women
Today, we celebrate the 184th birth anniversary of Louisa May Alcott, the woman who gave us the timeless ‘Little Women’.
Born in 1832, Louisa Alcott had always sailed through hardships and financial instability. Alcott grew up around reformers, iconoclasts and transcendentalists. She started writing when she was only 15-years-old in order to support her family financially. She started publishing her work in 1851 under the pen name of Flora Fairfield. Though Louisa has written a number of novels, stories and poems, her Little Women is the most iconic of all. So much that America added it among one of their top 10 favourite books. The book was followed by two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, which did equally well, but Little Women is the book the world recognises Alcott with.
We bring you a list of ten things you did not know about Louisa May Alcott:
- Alcott never wanted to write Little Women in the first place. She was asked by her publisher to write something for ‘little girls’ and Alcott wrote the book in just ten weeks!
- Alcott’s father, Bronson Alcott, made it compulsory for the entire family to keep a journal. Bronson himself had 61 volumes of journal by the time he turned 82. A piece from Louisa Alcott’s journal reads,
”My quick tongue is always getting me into trouble, and my moodiness makes it hard to be cheerful when I think how poor we are, how much worry it is to live, and how many things I long to do I never can.”
- She was the first woman registered to vote in Concord, Massachusetts. Alcott actively participated in many civil rights movements like suffrage movement, feminism and abolitionism and hence she made sure to mark her presence by exercising her power to vote. Her mother served as her inspiration as she had said she would live to vote in the polls even if her daughters had to carry her.
- During the Civil War, Alcott left her family to work as a nurse in Washington DC. This provided a fruitful experience for her as she recorded the daily events in her journal and as well as in her book, Hospital Sketches. The book first appeared in Boston Commonwealth and was reprinted a lot many times.
- Louisa May Alcott, along with her entire family, followed vegetarianism.
- She went on nature walks with poet-philosopher Henry David Thoreau. He also was partly responsible for her education along with her father. She grew up with poet Ralph Waldo Emerson around her and also knew novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. All four of them are buried together in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.
- Alcott also wrote around 30 pulp fiction stories under the pen name A Barnard. This was discovered only in the 1940s.
- Alcott’s family were supporters of anti-slavery. They even helped a slave by letting her hide in their house for a week after which they helped the fugitive flee to safety.
- Though she wrote fiction, she drew her characters from real life situations. For example, Little Women is loosely based on Alcott’s early life with her three sisters.
- Though her character in the book Little Women gets married towards the end of the book, Alcott decided to stay spinster all her life as she claims to have not fallen in love with anyone.